Travel CEOs Urge White House, Congress to Improve COVID-19 Testing

Fourteen CEOs of travel-related companies sent a letter to the president and congressional leaders Monday, stating that more and better COVID-19 (coronavirus) testing is crucial to an economic recovery and the restart of the $2.6 trillion travel industry.

“Restoring travel will require an aggressive and comprehensive suite of measures to provide relief, protection and stimulus for travel-related businesses—83 percent of which are small businesses,” the letter said. Among the measures, the 14 CEOs supported the Timely and Effective Systematic Testing (TEST) Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet, Mitt Romney and Kyrsten Sinema. The legislation, which those who signed the letter want incorporated in the next coronavirus relief package, would enhance the resources and collaboration tools the federal government devotes to COVID-19 testing.

“Travel, which supported employment for one in 10 Americans before the pandemic, has already lost more than half of the 15.8 million jobs our industry supported in 2019—more than a third of the total U.S. jobs lost to this pandemic,” the letter reads. “The drop in travel-related spending is projected to cost the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion by the end of this year. In short, there can be no broader economic recovery without a recovery in travel.”

In addition to enhanced rapid testing (“it is also important that testing methods return results within 24 to 48 hours”) the CEOs urged further measures, which included “a robust federal policy framework of relief and stimulus, rigorous health and safety standards adopted by travel-related businesses and the universal embrace of good health practices (such as the wearing of masks) by the public.”

According to a COVID-19 testing white paper produced by the U.S. Travel Association, wider availability of testing would:

  • Help determine whether reopening is safe—and, conversely, whether further economic relief will be needed
  • Help keep employees safe and businesses open
  • Promote safe and healthy travel
  • Restore consumer confidence and generating travel demand

U.S. Travel has further identified the following areas of need to achieve the improvement and broadening of coronavirus testing on the scale needed to help ignite an economic revival:

  • Improving the accuracy and speed of data collection for testing and contact tracing
  • Increasing available resources for research, development and validation of new, rapid and accurate tests
  • Investing in expanded production, laboratory capacity and testing sites
  • Increasing access to worker testing
  • Developing digital tracing and tracking tools
  • Standardizing tracing and tracking systems and making them interoperable
  • Updating and expanding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing guidelines

The letter was signed by Heather McCrory of Accor North America, Inc.; David Kong of BWH Hotel Group; Pat Pacious of Choice Hotels International, Inc.; Chrissy Taylor of Enterprise Holdings, Inc.; Chris Nassetta of Hilton; Jim Risoleo of Host Hotels & Resorts; Mark Hoplamazian of Hyatt Hotels Corporation; George Markantonis of Las Vegas Sands Corporation; Elie Maalouf of InterContinental Hotels Group; Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels & Co; Arne Sorenson of Marriott International; Sean Menke of Sabre Corporation; Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association; and Geoff Ballotti of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

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